SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers’ first three picks in the 2015 NFL draft were all on the defensive side of the ball, with the team selecting Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt in the second round at No. 46 overall and Virginia outside linebacker Eli Harold in the third round at No. 79 overall on Friday.
This came after the 49ers took Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead at No. 17 in the first round.
Surely, the Niners are overcompensating, despite their giving up 4.0 yards per carry the past season for the first time since 2006, right?
Well, the way general manager Trent Baalke tells it, the 49ers are simply sticking to their draft board and selecting the best player available when their turn comes.
“We want to go big and stay big in this draft,” Baalke said. “We want to stay big and get faster. All three [draftees] can contribute on four downs.
“We stayed with the board … you get better by drafting the best players available.”
The selection of Tartt was perhaps the most head-scratching, especially because he did not expect to be drafted until later -- much later. Baalke said the Niners were tempted to trade back in the round, but the risk of losing Tartt was too great.
They stayed and made the pick, even though they had used high picks on safeties the past two years, when they drafted Jimmie Ward, a high school buddy of Tartt, and Eric Reid. Plus, there’s the presence of Antoine Bethea.
But Ward is still recovering from re-breaking his foot the past season, which limited him to eight games, and Reid has suffered three concussions in two seasons.
“I like to come down and tackle, and also I can play in the post,” said the 6-foot-1, 218-pound Tartt, who had six interceptions, 20 passes defended and 6.5 tackles for loss in 44 games at Samford.
“I can do either/or. It really doesn’t matter to me. First off, I see myself playing special teams. I want to get out on special teams and make my name on special teams and learn as much as I can from Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid.”
“I’m going to bring a lot of passion, toughness,” said Harold, whose 17.5 career sacks in 36 games rank 11th in Virginia history. “I feel like I’m a natural-born leader. I feel like I learn very quickly, and I’m an athletic guy. And I feel like I can make noise on special teams. Just do what coaches ask me to do.”
Even if, as many observers say, the 49ers have not paid enough -- strike that -- any attention to the offensive side of the ball through the draft’s first two days.
Just don’t bring that talk around Baalke. And go ahead, call it a draw … kinda.
Tartt expected to be drafted in the third or fourth round; he was taken in the second. Harold anticipated going late in the first or second; he went midway through the third.
“You can never have too many guys who can rush the passer,” Baalke said. “In every sport, the one thing in common is you stay strong up the middle.”
No matter the side of the ball or the round, apparently.